On August 18th, 1969, the legendary Jimi Hendrix famously took the stage to close out the Woodstock Festival. He was one of the biggest names on the bill (which is saying quite a bit, considering the star-studded lineup), and thus he was given the honor of playing the final set of the weekend. His performance, which took place at 9am on Monday morning after a weekend riddled with weather delays and technical difficulties, is often cited as the most important and memorable performance of the festival.
Jimi’s guitar for this performance was a 1968 Olympic White Fender Stratocaster (which he called Izabella and named his final single after) that is today known as the Woodstock Stratocaster and is one of the most iconic guitars in American music history.
Jimi Hendrix was known for many things, including his love for Fender Stratocasters. He did play other guitars, but after 1966 his arsenal mostly consisted of Strats, the two most famous being the Woodstock Stratocaster, and his personal favorite, Black Beauty. The Woodstock Strat was one that he purchased at Manny’s Music in New York City in 1968 and was completely stock on the inside, with the only customizations being slight modifications to fit Jimi’s left-handed playing (a hole for the strap button was drilled on the lower horn), and is printed with the serial number #240981. The guitar has a alder body and two-piece maple neck, both standard for Stratocasters in 1968.
Hendrix first played this instrument in the Fall of 1968, and then of course he famously played it on his North American tour in the summer of 1969, which naturally included his festival-closing performance at Woodstock and his famous rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner”, which you can watch in its entirety below.
Jimi Hendrix also played the Woodstock Strat (or at least another, similar Olympic White Stratocaster) at several other notable concerts including his headlining performance at the Newport Pop Festival in 1969 and his final concert on September 6th, 1970 at the almost-failed Love and Peace Festival in Isle of Fehmarn, Germany, which took place just 12 days before his overdose death on September 18th, 1970 at the young age of 27.
Not long after the Isle of Fehmarn performance, the guitar ended up in the hands of his Jimi Hendrix Experience drummer, Mitch Mitchell, who had the instrument when Jimi died and it remained in his possession until the early 1990s, at which point it was sold at auction for £198,000 to Gabriele Ansaloni, the Italian TV host and music critic.
At the time, this was the most that had ever been paid for a guitar, as the craze for famous guitars had only just begun. About two years later, in 1993, Ansaloni sold the guitar to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, reportedly (but never confirmed) for upwards of $2 million. That’s a whole lot of money considering Jerry Garcia’s Wolf went for $1.9 million in 2017, nearly 25 years later, after the affects of rock star guitar craze had well past set in.
In 2000, Paul Allen founded the Experience Music Project Museum in Hendrix’s hometown of Seattle, and the guitar has been in safe keeping on display there ever since, though the museum itself has since been rebranded as the Museum of Pop Culture, or MoPOP.
The Woodstock Strat was last played in public by blues guitarist and huge Jimi Hendrix fan Kenny Wayne Shephard in November 2010, when he appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and then later that evening for the Hendrix Experience Tour at NYC’s Beacon Theatre. The guitar is still in its original form, though it has since been thoroughly cleaned of Hendrix’s cigarette burns and fingerprints and fitted with new strings (why?!?).
And of course, it goes without saying that the Fender guitar company has capitalized on the fame of Jimi’s Woodstock guitar and created their very own meticulous replica of the instrument, which currently goes for a cool $5000.
Watch a clip from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon featuring Kenny Wayne Shepard playing Jimi Hendrix’s Woodstock Stratocaster, Izabella, below. This performance took place on November 10th, 2010.